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  • 1. Author’s Name 1 [Author’s Name] [Tutor’s Name] [Class] 17 August 2009 Political Science Introduction That American communities are experiencing the rapid democracy decline is beyond any doubts. The discussed crisis has covered a broad range of issues and circles, but beyond that, the crisis has resulted in the emerging erosion of journalism – the journalism that used to be the major reflection of democratic initiatives for years. In their article, Nichols and McChesney argue for and discuss the issue of the gradual collapse of journalism, which leads to the loss of political and public accountability in America. For the authors, government support and intrusion look like the most viable options for the restoration of journalism, and although the merger of the government and the media may seem an explosive mixture, in the light of the current political knowledge, and against the background of the present day political realities, this solution stands out as the matter of reviving official journalism in the form, which will promote media as the instruments of informing citizens and as the matter of connecting young people to reporting and news. Summary In their article, Nichols and McChesney elaborate on the painful topic of democracy decline across American communities. For the authors, “it is not the economic meltdown, although the crisis is related to the broader day of reckoning that appears to have arrived” (Nichols & McChesney). On the contrary, the crisis Nichols and McChesney seek to explain and resolve comes out as the most serious threat to democracy: in other words, they talk about the crisis of journalism and its subsequent decline. Everything began with the media
  • 2. Author’s Name 2 becoming non-profitable institutions, and where great regional dealers were going bankrupt, smaller newspapers were fighting to survive in the media market. The crisis, however, was not limited to the media but has resulted in the general crisis of journalism: the current media are struggling to become celebrity-obsessed profit centers, instead of being journalistic icons (Nichols & McChesney). Neither the Internet nor the economic collapse can be held responsible for the current journalism decline; rather, the process of its erosion can be traced back to the times, when mergers and media conglomerates started to replace authentic journalistic incentives, in order to satisfy customers and to use this satisfaction as the source of increasing profits. Short-term profits were prioritized; professional journalism was watered with less expensive stuff, simultaneously making younger generation disinterested in journalism. For Nichols and McChesney, there is no solution better than to vote for government intervention, and at this point of discussion, the media and journalism become the matters of the growing political concern. Will government intervention result in the growing interdependence of official information sources and the media, or will it lead to the global dependence of the media on the state? Nichols and McChesney make an emphasis on the historical fact that our media are anything but free market institutions; and thus, the government cannot inherently threaten something that does not exist (namely, media independence). At the same time, if the government simply gives Americans a tax credit on the sum they spend on newspapers, this will look like a form of indirect government subsidy, which in no way threatens political neutrality of newspapers and other media – the neutrality that appears to be irrelevant and almost meaningless. I agree to Nichols and McChesney, because I believe that the media that comply with government’s information demands are more likely to be granted a share of independence. What I mean is that the media, which can develop strong ties with various government bodies, are more likely to be given a unique opportunity to develop their professional activity.
  • 3. Author’s Name 3 With the governmental support, they can establish relatively independent and stable media institutions, which would compete with each other, and which would also urge the government to rewrite the rules of its public policies. Without governmental support, the media will not restore themselves as the sources of true journalism; nor will they be able to connect themselves to the younger generation. It is government that can create conditions necessary for continuous flourishing of journalism as the matter of political representation and democratic expression in America. Response Looking back into the history and politics of media, media in democratic societies are usually expected to fulfill the three major roles: (a) to provide a forum for political parties and candidates before a national audience; (b) to develop and contribute to informed citizenship; and (c) to be a kind of a “watchdog” by judging and reflecting the acts of governments and to closely follow their political actions (Lyengar & McGrady 19). These functions imply that media are initially independent from governments, and exercise sufficient volume of authority to be watchdogs and informed citizenship tools in democratic societies. But this is theory, and the political media reality is very much distanced from what textbooks are trying to promote. When Nichols and McChesney vote for active government intervention, they in no way threaten the stability of the current media system, but on the contrary, give it a second try. Not government intrusion, but private ownership can seriously complicate the current situation in media. It is difficult to deny the fact that “when governments own and operate major television channels, or regulate them heavily, as is quite common throughout the world, programming tends to uncritically support government policies, even in democratic countries” (Graber 32), but that private media owners are likely to distrust business ethics and to misuse their corporate rights against the principles of journalism is also obvious. The Big
  • 4. Author’s Name 4 Five example shows that media conglomerates and mergers are complex operational and financial structures, and their directors often maintain close friendly relationships, which cannot benefit journalism. It is becoming a popular gesture to include into the board of directors someone, who holds a well-known name associated with philanthropy (Bagdikan 51). Only in case of Rupert Murdoch, board members of his media corporation also include directors of British Airways, Rothschild Investment Trust, and others (Bagdikan 51). Thus, what is the sense in such media? Can they be fairly regarded as the instrument of contributing to informed citizenship or being an effective watchdog for government’s actions? Unfortunately, history confirms that the era of true media independence is in the past; more truly, media have never been completely independent, and where government subsidy can give a chance for the revival of journalism, corporate mergers on the contrary, do not make any use except for tying journalists to their profitability goals. Many professionals and politicians hold the Internet and technology guilty and responsible for the current state of journalism in America. The Internet is considered as the major source of true journalism decline. In reality, technology in general and the Internet in particular, have led to the growing abundance of available information which, in its turn, also signified the society’s transition to post bureaucratic politics (Bimber 15). Technology had to result in the growing information bias toward those who are responsible for the political information; technology had to disrupt bureaucratically justified organizational structures in media, but with the growing economic and political bias, the impact of technology was muttered by the growing weight and influence of political elites. It would be correct to say that technology confirmed and emphasized the interdependence between economic and political aspects in media – the interdependence which Nichols and McChesney also discuss in their article.
  • 5. Author’s Name 5 It appears that where competition in the political market grows, elites are required to manage news; at the same time, where media firms strive to minimize their costs, they are also bound to be influenced by elites, which will make news attractive and interesting to consumers (Entman 20). This, however, does not mean that media corporations are more capable of withstanding these political pressures than small newspapers; on the contrary, media corporations are shown as the organizational entities increasingly interested in minimization of their costs and promoting profitable news. In this situation, and bearing in mind that the media market is far from being independent from the state and government, government intrusion can hardly harm journalists. The events in Grenada confirm the growing government power in suppressing the undesirable information from becoming public (Lyengar & McGrady 95). Without government, the media will hardly survive the difficult times. They will hardly be given a unique chance to develop and expand. It is very probable, that without government the media market will turn into a single monopolistic conglomerate without any sign of fair competition. As such, government support looks like the most viable source of media support in present day political environment. Conclusion For Nichols and McChesney, government intrusion looks like the most appropriate measure against the continuous erosion of journalism. For the authors of the discussed article, government intrusion is in no way associated with discrimination but on the contrary, is expected to give the media a stimulus for revival, reasonably balanced with appropriate level of official control. Profound historical analysis confirms that current media are anything but free and independent. They are being governed by numerous elites; media conglomerates impose their profitability rules on journalists. As a result, proposed forms of government subsidies and tax credits can substantially improve the overall state of journalism, as well as to help journalists resolve eternal political-economic media dilemma.
  • 6. Author’s Name 6 Works Cited Bagdikan, B.H. The New Media Monopoly. Beacon Press, 2004. Bimber, B. “How Information Shapes Political Institutions.” In D.A. Graber, Media Power in Politics, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2007, pp. 9-18. Graber, D.A. Mass Media and American Politics. University of Illinois at Chicago, 2006. Entman, R.M. Democracy Without Citizens: Media and the Decay of American Politics. Oxford University Press, 1989. Lyengar, S. and J. McGrady. Media Politics. A Citizen’s Guide. W.W. Norton & Company, 2007. Nichols, J. and R.W. McChesney. “The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers.” 2009. The Nation. 17 August 2009. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090406/nichols_mcchesney/4